March 26, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Irish men’s tennis team will close out their regular season slate of home matches this weekend when they play host to BIG EAST foe South Florida and ninth-ranked Illinois. Notre Dame will face the Bulls at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 28. A day later, the Irish take on the Fighting Illini, also scheduled for a 1:00 p.m. start.
The Irish, currently ranked 27th, carry a 9-9 record into the weekend. Last weekend, Notre Dame posted a 1-2 mark at the 2009 Blue Gray National Tennis Classic in Montgomery, Ala., posting a 4-2 win versus Mississippi State on March 19. They then dropped decisions to 22nd-ranked Boise State, 4-0, and Wisconsin, 4-3. Casey Watt (Gibsonia, Pa./Pine-Richland) and Daniel Stahl (Bethesda, Md./Walt Whitman) led the Irish with 2-0 singles records on the weekend. For his efforts, including two wins at third singles, Watt was named the BIG EAST men’s tennis Player of the Week on March 25 by the BIG EAST conference.
The match versus South Florida will be Notre Dame’s first match versus BIG EAST opposition this season, and the first of two regular season matches versus conference opposition, as the Irish will play at Louisville on April 11. All-time, Notre Dame holds a 3-0 series lead versus South Florida, including a 2-0 mark under head coach Bob Bayliss. The teams first met in 1982 when the Irish earned a 5-2 win. Then in 2006 and 2008 the teams met in the BIG EAST Tournament. In 2006, Notre Dame earned a 4-0 win in the BIG EAST semifinals. Last season the Irish earned a 4-3 win over the Bulls in the BIG EAST Championship match.
South Florida comes into Saturday’s match with a 9-5 record (excluding a match versus Mexico State on Thursday afternoon), good for 40th overall in the latest ITA Rankings. The Bulls and Irish have faced one common opponent in Florida State. On Jan. 19, USF downed 11th-ranked FSU, 5-2. Then on Jan. 28, 11th-ranked FSU took a narrow victory over the Irish, 4-3. In singles play, sophomore Lucas Jovita leads the Bulls with a 6-4 mark at first singles and an ITA singles ranking of 70.
Illinois enters Sunday’s match with a 13-4 overall record. Most recently, the Fighting Illini lost to 18th-ranked Texas A&M, 4-3, on March 15. The Irish also faced Texas A&M, knocking-off the Aggies, ranked 13th at the time, 4-3 in Notre Dame, Ind. The Illini and Irish have faced seven other common opponents including Pepperdine, Virginia, Duke, Tulsa, Northwestern, Toledo and Wisconsin. Against those seven teams, Illinois carries a 6-1 record while the Irish have posted a 3-5 mark versus those common opponents, having played Wisconsin twice.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Illinois, 21-19, including a 12-11 mark under Bayliss. The teams first met in 1933 when the Illini earned a 7-0 win. Most recently, Illinois defeated Notre Dame, 6-1, on March 1, 2008. The Illini have held the advantage in the series as of late, having posted a 7-2 mark versus the Irish since 2002.
Live scoring of both matches will be available through und.com by accessing the link on the men’s tennis schedule page. Recaps and box scores of both matches will also be posted on und.com.